Can Del Negro ‘Match Wits’ With Pop?
The top-seeded Spurs return to the AT&T Center tonight for Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals boasting a 14-game winning streak and about as many reasons to like their chances of advancement.
Somewhere on that list: They have the NBA’s Coach of the Year in their huddle, and the Los Angeles Clippers do not.
For embattled Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro, a former Spurs guard now charged with out-maneuvering his old boss in a seven-game series, the task could not be more daunting.
“I don’t know if you can match wits with Coach Pop,” Del Negro said after the Clippers practiced Monday at the AT&T Center. “They’ve hung banners here, not only because they’ve had great players, but because they’ve had great direction. He steers the ship.”
If the series were to be played out in the offices of the teams’ respective coaches, it wouldn’t take a fortune teller to foresee the outcome.
In 15-plus seasons on the Spurs’ bench, the 63-year-old Popovich has four NBA championships to his credit and more playoff victories than any active coach (112). Del Negro, 45, is 8-11 in the postseason, including a pair of first-round ousters in Chicago. He is navigating uncharted waters just by making the second round.